Troubled downtown club tries to briefly rise from the dead, but residents, businesses and police want to stuff it back in grave

The owners of Felt, closed for the past 18 months due to licensing, tax and business issues, today asked the Boston Licensing Board to reinstate its liquor license.

Attorney Mark Zuroff, who represents the last known group of owners, said the sole reason would be so that they could sell the license to a new operator who wants to convert the Washington Street space into a fancy supper club called the Adams House - an homage to a restaurant that once operated there. "None of the prior management or ownership will be involved," he pledged. "We're not trying to resurrect the current operation."

Residents, neighboring businesses, Suffolk University and Boston Police, however, were having none of it, saying the neighborhood is changing, that they have enjoyed 18 months of violence- and noise-free weekend nights, rather than being awakened at 2 a.m. by hundreds of people exiting the club and that they did not buy Zuroff's promises of a troublefree new restaurant.

Capt. Thomas Lee of District A-1 asked the board not to renew the Felt license because of the near perpetual crime problems related to it. In the two years before it closed, he said, there were 20 assaults in the club - four of them stabbings, as well as two sexual assaults, seven larcenies, four counts of drunken patrons being served more liquor and one gun call.

"This was the worst nightclub on District 1," he said. "It had a significant impact on the neighborhood."

Henry Yee of the Chinatown Residents Association said residents of a nearby senior project deserve a good quality of life. Leonard Phillips of Bay Village said he was tired of police resources that would normally go to keeping his neighborhood safe being repeatedly summoned to deal with problems at or outside Felt.

The Midtown Park Plaza Neighborhood Association also opposed letting Felt regain its license, no matter how temporarily.

State imposed limits on the number of all-alcohol licenses in Boston mean the liquor license is the dead club's main asset - and a draw for the prospective new owner. In addition to the Boston board, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission would also have to approve the renewal.

That the board held the hearing at all was yet the latest example of problems related to the old club. License renewal is normally automatic, but after the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission suspended the license because the new ownership group - which included some of the old owners - never notified it of the change, as required by law. The new owners thought they didn't have to renew the club's license and it expired, Zuroff said.

One nearby resident noted the recent influx of residents into Downtown Crossing: "What was once appropriate is no longer appropriate."

Suffolk University, which has invested heavily in dorm and theater space on Washington Street, the Downtown Business Improvement District, Millennium Place and Millennium Partners all opposed renewing the club's license. Millennium Partners is nearing completion of a luxury residential tower on what was once a Washington Street parking lot across from Felt - and a scene of one of the early morning melees that had Felt managers appearing before the licensing board.

Mimi Beldekas, whose family has owned the building for decades, acknowledged the complaints and said she agreed with them. "I feel like I've been basically victimized by the previous owners," she said, adding she has not received a cent in rent since the club shut.

The board decides Thursday whether to renew the license or take it back, which would let it offer it to somebody else in the city.

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Comments

But if the owners do plan to

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But if the owners do plan to transform the space into an upscale supper club, wouldn't that fit the mold of a rapidly gentrifying block?

Is there not some legal provisoin allowing the board to yank the license again if the owners reopen the old Felt instead of the new concept?

Sounds to me

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A higher class restaurant / lounge is exactly what this area needs, not another dingy club.

So the license was revoked, it doesn’t need to be renewed; what’s stopping the new prospective client from applying for it thought the board directly? Why bother with Felt and their lawyer who lost it?

Felt and the owners lost it, and they should be kicked to the curb for their negligence on many fronts, but mainly letting it lapse and allowing it back into circulation. They get nothing, good day sir.

Meanwhile, people should keep a watchful eye, but it sounds like as long as this new interested owner isn’t a front for the old ones, let him put in something better that isn’t a club.

Scarcity of licenses

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To answer you and GoBruins below, the board doesn't have any all-alcohol licenses to give out. So how do you get one? You buy one on the open market and then hope the licensing board approves the transfer.

In this case, Felt's only real asset is that license. If the prospective new owner were to try to buy one on the open market, it could take months before one becomes available, so they might not want to take a chance on a property that obviously already has problems to overcome.

As for what happens if the board doesn't let them renew and they take it back, they would hold it until the next applicant comes in seeking an all-alcohol license. That lucky person or company would then get, for Boston, a liquor license at an incredible discount (there is a fee, somebody correct me if I'm wrong, of $3,000 or $4,000 - but on the open market, it might go for $100,000 to $200,000).

The board rarely regains licenses. They did get back the license for a failed Hyde Park restaurant a few months ago, but before that, I think there were only a couple of times in the last couple of years (one when 45 Province St. failed to get somebody to operate its restaurant, the other when somebody at an Irish social club in West Roxbury mistakenly gave its license back).

So

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just too risky to try to grab it when it goes back into the pool? Better to get soaked and transfer it?

Guess I'm just trying to figure out if this is some sort of laundering scheme by the old owners and their buddies, or if it really is the best way for the new guy to grab the license for a new place.

Way too risky to let it go back into the pool.

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You're talking about a commodity that costs a few thousand dollars and is worth six figures on the open market. To say that it's in high demand is an understatement.

If they take it back....

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Does the city put it up for auction to get the market value/high bid? Since full liquor licenses are in such high demand, and are usually sold by prior holders for a couple hundred grand,how would this work? What is the "face value" of a full license? When is the last time the city actually "owned" a license?

I don't buy the excuse of

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I don't buy the excuse of "the neighborhood is changing...it's so nice a peaceful..." as an excuse *ever* to deny a license (or renewal). It's downtown in a city. It's supposed to be vibrant and active and, yes, even loud at times. I live downtown and I experience the 2am running of the drunks almost every weekend. I'm long past the club-going age but I live here and chose to do so. All of these resident associations (that the city listens to far too much) that are trying to turn the city into a 55+ community are one of the factors killing the growth and vitality of the city. (Add in Mumbles and the sad state of the T and the archaic liquor laws... )

I would agree, however, that the license shouldn't be renewed because the place has a history of violations and violence. That alone should be the argument from local residents and the police.

WANT!

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WANT!

18 months?

Funny, I recall my buddy working there last MLK weekend 13 months ago. You sure about your facts here, Adam?

They kept bandying about "18 months"

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Yeah, seems too long, now that you mention it. It's possible, though, they either got a one-day license or, um, well, they opened when they shouldn't have, although I'm sure you'd be as shocked as me to even consider that possibility.

Kirkland? What?

Are you thinking of the Kirkland Cafe on Washington Street in Somerville?

This discussion is about a club on Washington Street in downtown Boston.

Porter, Wheeler, and Kirkland

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Porter, Wheeler, and Kirkland Streets downtown were obliterated for the construction of the Mass Pike Towers housing projects nearly a half century ago.

Hey, Ron!

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Ever think about becoming a chauffeur? At least I'd never worry about you getting lost...

I take it you don't work downtown

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1. You don't know the streets/layouts

2. The pedestrian mall section is sufficiently packed with folks in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening that adding cars and parking would reduce the amount of people for the businesses.

I'm surprised you didn't comment on that old Salem St. photo that it would have so many more people to go to the businesses if they just cleared out all the people for room for cars!

Sheesh!